The lovely Bod and Annie Griffiths invited myself and Abby from Bristol Eating over to try the One Day Seasonal Cookery Course with River Cottage’s Tim Maddams at their lovely new cookery school Vale House Kitchen. Situated on the site of what must be ‘the House of my dreams’, with chickens, pigs, orchards, veggie patches – the works, it was such a foodie haven, and wonderful environment situated in the village town of Timsbury, just outside of Bath.
The classes are intended to be small and extremely personal, with 8-10 participants per class it was Bod and Annie’s vision to ensure that everyone will get one-to-one tuition time with their tutor on the day- something i think is really quite essential if you are paying £100 or more for a cookery course. The courses range from standard cooking, jam making, cake decoration to more adventurous country skills like butchering, fly fishing and foraging which can last a couple of days.
We got picked up from Bath in the comfy Vale House Kitchen minibus which picks up guests from Villa Magdala (recently featured in Crumbs Magazine) and The Carpenters Arms; close recommended accommodation choices for the cookery school.
Before attending with Abby i notified Bod Griffith that i’d be needing to make dishes gluten free on the day, as the course did not specify gluten free i was worried that i wouldn’t be able to cook everything during the day. I needn’t have worried- Bod and Tim Maddams our tutor ensured that i had gluten free flour, separate tips and tricks and that the drop scones on arrival were all gluten free. It was great to see how they could adapt, even though it wasn’t a specialist gluten free cookery course.
After some tea and drop scones with wonderful Raspberry and Vanilla Jam -made on their Jam course and THE best jam i’ve probably ever tasted!- we popped on our aprons and got to baking some bread, a baked Creme Catalan and fresh pasta with a courgette sauce.
The Bread and pasta i made was obviously going to be slightly different ,with more eggs to flour, compared to what everyone else made but the recipes and textures in the results were spot on- especially the pasta- a recipe which undoubtedly i will be using again and again at home. There was no point where i felt lost or out of place making these recipes gluten free and was guided along whenever i needed help- this is where i feel cookery courses with smaller classes like at Vale House Kitchen ensure you get what you pay for.
The Creme Catalan was probably my second favourite thing Tim taught us to make- as i’m a bit of a dessert queen. An easy and simple dish to make for a dinner party or romantic meal for two, which you can easily adapt to make your own with different fruit or chocolate.
After a little break to eat our courgette pasta we went to see the pigs and chickens then got on to cooking our main course Partridge Two Ways and Marrow Pickle. What i liked about the dishes we learnt was that they could be adapted to things you have in the house at the time and what is seasonal, the partridge two ways could easily be made the same with another bird, and the marrow pickle with another vegetable of choice.
We sat in the sunshine outside and marvelled over our dishes we had made, Bod brought out some roasted vegetables he had put in the oven as we we’re cooking and we dug into the feast of our efforts with some wine. What a lovely way to finish the day with your fellow students.
I would highly recommend these courses to anyone on a gluten free diet but probably not the Bread Making Course- but Bod and Annie have expressed their interest in setting up a specialised gluten free course which i feel would go down a storm with gluten intolerant and coeliacs all over the land.
If you’re looking for a birthday present or christmas present to give to someone this year, this really is a special thing to do, especially if you team it up with a weekend trip to Bath.
Highly recommended, thank you Bod, Annie, Tim for such a wonderful day.